Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1964 ..
MS HORODNY (continuing):
But no; on the floor of this Assembly the Minister for Urban Services just recently admitted that services will be cut, particularly where patronage is low. If the Government had been serious about meeting greenhouse gas targets it would have sought to find ways of increasing services, not decreasing them, particularly when some 53 per cent of ACT energy use is in transport.
One might think that the valuable work that the Commissioner for the Environment is doing on indicators might be useful to the Government in the formulation of their budget. The Government has developed a budget that is, by and large, devoid of environmental indicators. If this Government were serious about environmental issues it would begin to use environmental indicators throughout the budget, particularly in key economic areas. The Government has said that it wants to have environmental education as an essential component of all stages of formal education. Instead, the quality of existing programs at Birrigai is at risk, and the policy officer for society and environment has been scrapped. Again, there is absolutely no commitment to the environment.
We also strongly disagree that environmental factors are not a key factor in health, and we urge the Government to reconsider its position that ACT Health, in its goals and targets, should not restore and expand its section on the impact of environmental factors on health. Has the Minister not heard of particulate pollution and the strong links to respiratory illness? This Government talks about an intersectoral approach to policy development, so where is the commitment to putting it into practice?
Energy consumption and the effects of that consumption on greenhouse gas emissions does not appear to be a significant priority for this Government. Again I should add that it was not a significant issue for the last Government. The response to the energy issue by this Government was to corporatise ACTEW without thorough debate on how we could make it one of the most energy efficient power providers in the country, or, indeed, the world. Recently I spotted joint advertising by ACTEW and a private company promoting slab heating. I am sure that it is a wonderfully comfortable form of heating, but I have it on best advice that, compared to alternatives such as gas space heating, it is very inefficient for most purposes. In fact, it is hard to reconcile the promotion of this form of energy use with the legal requirement that ACTEW be as committed to the promotion of ecologically sustainable practices as it should be to its operation as a commercial business.
Another area in which the Government has been found to be seriously lacking is on the issue of burning off. Despite some nice rhetoric, again it failed to consult with the local groups and the Conservation Council on developing practical strategies for the care of particular areas of bushland. A classic example is the burning off in the Aranda bushland which was being studied by Landcare groups for its varieties of native flowers and grasses. That study is now delayed by five years.
There is a raft of actions that should be taken. Some of these include adequate funding for the weeds strategy and the implementation of at least some of the recommendations of the last Assembly's Environment Committee's report on feral animals and invasive plants. There is no commitment to a register of contaminated sites and potentially polluting practices; there is no commitment to a grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands reserve system in the ACT; and there are no strategies to deal with the problem of siltation of our waterways. Builders are simply given a licence to pollute.